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'Sudo' explores the relationship between Artificial Intelligence & Human Beings

Sudo is an immersive performance that explores the presence and the lack of emotions between Artificial Intelligence and human beings—with original music compositions by Canvas Conversations and Ferry, complete with visuals by Aqilah Misuary. 

In a bid to question our consciousness, emotions and relationships (or the lack of), the experience features a 70-minutes devised piece from original scores utilising a 6-way surround sound and a 20-metre panoramic projection.

'Sudo' explores the relationship between Artificial Intelligence & Human Beings

by SAND Magazine

November 08, 2017


Live a life like mine,
Fix a life in five.
Another job is done,
It never stops at one.

Photo: @frazak for Riot !n Magenta

What are you most proud of when it comes to your art and musical work?
I think some of the best songs I've ever written collaboratively is The Whale Song, Leprosy and Bell—all with my band Giants Must Fall. I'm really proud of the 2 EPs we came up with because the songs came from a place of honesty.

The three songs (especially so) above came from a place of excruciating pain and helplessness. That entire process of the two EPs taught me a lot about my craft and therefore has a very special place in my heart. 

What are your thoughts about art finding its place (or being misplaced) in various settings from politics to technology?
I think the biggest misplacement of art lies in our mindset.

Recently, I've had the experience of teaching art in a primary and secondary school. The former was great as we adopted a multi-disciplinary approach and had students observe and concentrate through mediums like photography, technology and visual art. 

In the latter, I had the privilege of teaching the less-academically inclined classes which I love because they are such a fun bunch. I found the way the art curriculum was structured for them was almost a cookie cutter of the normal and express stream, which was counter-effective to their other commitments and responsibilities in life. I felt that so many opportunities were missed—in terms of using art and all it encompasses as a powerful educational tool beyond just the surface—because of the way things were executed. 

Being presented with the opportunity to teach made me realise that majority of the students didn't understand art as I naturally do. Most of them are not naturally inclined to art (technically and mentally), and I felt the curriculum only provided benefits to those who are and ended up alienating everyone else.

Perhaps this is why many people disregard their creativity and the possibilities of art altogether because it was instilled in them through prior educational experience that not being able to draw means that one isn't creative or artistic. The educational structure that we have also instills the perception that being an artist isn't something that allows one to put money on the table. 

I do wish that the standard art curriculum could be more holistic and formulated to teach and encompass more aspects such as discipline and values—instead of creating art for art's sake such as merely drawing or creating a sculpture. 

Many times cookie cutters exist out of convenience or limitations of resources but I believe that there are ways to tweak the approach without causing too much inconvenience.

What motivated Sudo—why is it important to do this, at this point in time?
When we chanced upon the concept of artificial intelligence versus its creator during the process of creating new material, it was something that resonated with all of us immediately and we began to spin a story around what this meant to each of us.

It was a fantastic experience—us, while understanding the context, arriving with our own experience, storylines and interpretations of a particular theme. Considering pop culture portrayals like Black Mirror and West World aside, this is a very relevant topic with technology being so prevalent in this day and age. Above all, we wanted to share experiences and emotions happening in the now—which we hope people can relate to. 

How has it been like, working with Aqilah Misuary in exploring the relationship between human beings and artificial intelligence? 
Aqilah is great, and I'm so happy that we managed to pull the projection area as wide as we could. Even though we've only seen the visuals on a computer screen so far, I can imagine how they would look like on a major scale during the show.

The way she has timed the visuals really helps to push the music forward. The combination of elements also adds interesting layers to the show, seeing how Aqilah's visuals are computer generated whereas we have very organic sounds played live throughout the set.

The narrative is something I can resonate with a lot because it's something that frustrates me constantly.

As an artist, I have to develop my online presence and streaming. When that presence isn't accepted or well-received enough, it almost feels personal—especially when you're putting a part of yourself that's authentic or vulnerable out there.

While there comes a point in time when rejection shouldn't matter as much, it's important to analyse when something isn't picking up. That allows me to create things that engage. Some numbers really do matter if the maker wants to build something substantial. 

As my friend Lennat Mak (who plays for Obedient Wives Club) puts it, you could have grown a watermelon and nobody would know if it's sweet until you cut it open and serve it to them.

That being said, this very logic is counter-intuitive to my personality because personally, I would rather let people cut the watermelons themselves. I'm not used to making people feel obligated to take something that I'm serving. Recognition, acceptance and fame are all things I struggle with but at the end of the day, do all these things matter? The act of chasing numbers never stops and that could well be my demise when the pursuit overshadows my goal, my craft and why I started doing music in the first place.

For me, there are very real and current emotions on the topic of artificial intelligence—which led me to think deeper about Sudo. We crave perfection, superficial acceptance and fame from the things we create.

Could you tell us more about the elements that will form the complete experience of Sudo—the panoramic projection and 6-way surround sound?
When Esplanade first approached us about the standalone show, we knew immediately that we wanted something beyond just a live band performance; to push how much we could actually do in that space.

We talked about the surround sound, and rigged up 6 speakers instead of the usual 2 at the front of house.

The immediate effect was amazing—hearing different elements at very distinct, different points in the room and feeding the music across the different planes is amazing. I'm not sure how we only ever listened to live music with two stereo outputs before and not feel it was incomplete.

When it came to projection, we definitely did not want just one screen above the band that plays like a television. With the surround sound, the visual aspect had to be stretched as wide as possible to engulf the listener.

The projection is stretched far enough to the point where the audience might have to turn their heads. That, combined with the ability to still hear the sounds left, right and from the back, truly justifies and connects the two elements thoughtfully and completely. 

It couldn't have been either or—we needed to have both.

In your opinion, how can music progress with artificial intelligence?
If data that comes from the consumption of music could be made public rather than being a tool that's closely guarded by companies, that would really help with the progress, creation and education.

Where does the power lie in electronic music, played live to you?
Creating sounds and textures (and in turn capturing emotions) that conventional or acoustic instruments aren't able to. When that is amplified at the right moment and space, it really helps to push forth an idea or movement. 

Are you always on the hunt for new soundscapes, and what moves you?
I'm always on the hunt for good ideas. Because this allows me an infinite number of possibilities to create beyond just what sound and performance are.

Completed works by other artists inspire me, be it dance, music or production. As long as everything has its own purpose or meaning and you can see the detail and process of the artist very clearly. That, to me, is mastery—when the smallest things are thought and taken care of because this is what makes all the difference.

Do you think there will ever be a point in time for human beings to form genuine, raw relationships with artificial intelligence?

If you are talking about a one-sided relationship, that is already happening!

I personally don't think that the relationship can go both ways until someone determines the origins of consciousness, the human 'soul' and how to go about creating and programming the DNA successfully.


Closing it up, Sealing these guts 
Slowing it down as redness pales out 
It's healing I'm sure

Catch a glimpse of the experience prior to the show on 10 November at Esplanade here. The show is part of Mosaic Music Series 2017 — purchase tickets here



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